The Hockey Stick

Why the name, where does it start, where does it go. Barry Gasson explains his view

By Barry Gasson

Another fundamental figure in Cha-Cha-Cha and Rumba is the Hockey Stick. Fan and Alemana, Fan and Hockey Stick. These are the two commonly known movements, but where the Alemana can be taken from other positions than Fan Position, the Hockey Stick can only be taken from Fan Position.

Aha! Gotcha!

I hear you cry. “The book gives all sorts of entries to the Hockey Stick.———– Fan, Close Hip Twist, Open Hip Twist, Spiral finished in Fan Position, Curl, Continuous Circular Hip Twist, Runaway Alemana, and Syncopated Open Hip Twist”.

Quite right, my observant young friend However, each one of the afore-mentioned movements ends in Fan Position, so, once again, the Hockey Stick can only be taken from Fan Position.

The Hockey Stick, although simplistic in construction, is a wonderful example of how the two bodies can blend together, while dancing entirely different movements. In most dance disciplines where two people dance together, the Lady dances the normal opposite to the man. In the case of the Hockey Stick the man dances two Cucuracha movements, while the lady moves progressively from his left side to a position facing the man, having moved past him,. towards his right side.

The geometry closely resembles the shape of a (field) hockey stick, a long handle and a little curvey bit on the end with which to hit the ball.

It is seldom that ones sees the correct shape of the Hockey Stick from the Lady, sometimes because the man created space and invited her to dance in the wrong direction, but more usually because their teacher had not been trained properly, if at all, and did not understand the technical requirements of the figure.

Pitfalls in the Hockey Stick

The first problem starts on the previous figure. Very often the Lady takes the last step of the Fan Position that precedes the Hockey Stick or Alemana, in a sideways direction, instead of a back step. This has the effect of turning her away from the correct alignment that of body at right angles to man.

Which can be a rather stylish shape for the Lady and was in vogue for a few years a couple of decades ago. However, many ladies performing this amount of turn often create ugly leg lines by virtue of the fact that they have stepped sideways instead of backwards. Then, they invariably omit the foot swivel to regain the right-angled position of their bodies relative to the man.

This causes them to dance the first three steps starting leftwards, then curving to the right, which makes the last three steps go to right and end up behind the man’s right shoulder. Whenever I see this I get mixed emotions. Horror and anger.

Horror at such a clumsy bastardization, and anger at the teacher who has little knowledge of the technique, geometry and aesthetic beauty of the movement when danced properly.

There are three positional rules to remember for the Lady.

  1.  The Hockey Stick must start and move along a line towards the man’s left side.
  2. At the end of the third step the lady’s weight should be on her right foot, with a straight knee. And her right hip displacement will fit into the hollow created by the man’s left hip displacement. He can then effectively stop her from going rightwards, and make her take the required 1/8 of turn to the left on step 4.

    At this point the hip geometry of the Lady on her right foot will, or should, suggest that her head line should be to the left, towards her next direction.

3. On step six she should be facing the man, having stepped backwards, not sideways

In a similar fashion to the Alemana, the movement is not led. Rather the man signals to the Lady by bringing her hand forward and inviting her to move in front of him. She should then take over the control of his hand and use it as a comfort of support as she performs her ‘Forward Walk Turning’, the essence of which is a turn on the straight right leg while the right hip position is maintained. Taking over the man’s hand and lowering the joined hands when SHE decides also helps the lady to keep her right armpit closed, and keeps her ‘within the confines of the man’s arms.

As discussed in the Alemana. When in Fan Position the lady’s right arm must describe a line from her right shoulder to right hand, along the path on which she will travel. Any tendency for her to extend her right elbow to the right will severely jeapardise the movement, and cause her to deviate her direction.

The Hockey Stick as Lady, commence in Fan position.

The lady is almost at arm’s length on man’s left side with her body at right angles to his. The ladies left foot will be back, supporting her full weight, with the left leg perpendicular, having completed a Backward walk, that involved 1/8 of turn to left.

Right foot closes to Left foot

This closure should be performed swiftly, much in the same way that a Spanish lady will ‘snap’ her fan closed. As the moving leg has no tension, it will articulate and close without disturbing the stature of the left leg. The weight will change, after closure, to the right foot and a hip action will occur.   Count 2

Left Foot forward.

The bodyweight is allowed to move forward through the perpendicular thigh of the supporting right leg, until a point of unbalance is achieved. The left foot is snapped into position landing under the bosom area, with the knee straightening before the weight is taken on.

Care must be taken so that the lady moves towards mans right side and not in a semi-circle starting to her left. On the previous step the man’s body has moved forward into a checked forward walk. Ladies often try to avoid the man by moving leftwards, not realizing that he will transfer his weight backwards out of her way. The Lady should be travelling towards the man’s left side at this point on a line with her ‘folding’ right arm.

Right Foot forward.

Care must be taken that the Lady does not step in front of the other foot, but rather a slight ‘skating’’ action as she moves from her left hip to her right hip. As she effects the hip action onto her straight right leg, her right hip will fill the space created by the man’s left hip which has moved back. At this point the hips should be level with the line of direction. Many Ladies take their right hip forward with the toe turned in at this point. Not a good idea!

Left Foot forward, turning 1/8 to left, taking joined hands down across body.

Many Ladies continue on the original line and merely turn the left toe out. The DIRECTION OF TRAVEL must deviate.

Right Foot forward, following curved line of step four.

I recommend a slightly delayed weight transfer, to keep the left hip action as right foot ‘snaps’ into place. Then the dramatic right hip action as the 3/8 of turn is made on right foot.

Left foot back, into open position, turning an extra 1/8 to left.

The Hockey Stick as Man

Left Foot forward, toe turned out.

The body turn to left is not detailed in technique as it is lost as the weight is transferred in place on step two, however it is desirable for the man to ‘shape’ towards the lady. This action is called a Çhecked Forward Walk’, with weight being retarded.

Transfer weight to right foot, in place.

Right leg is now perpendicular, with right hip displacement effected. Left leg remains straight with no movement of the foot.

Without altering right leg shaping, close Left Foot to Right Foot, with leg articulation due to left leg being of greater length. Weight is then taken on to Left Leg with consequent hip action backwards and leftwards. Care must be taken not to allow body to turn to the right, the right side to be ‘keyed’ towards the Lady. This position will shape the lady to take her 1/8 of turn to left on step four, in fact, it will actively prevent her from taking the all too common turn to the right.

Right Foot back, turning 1/8 to right.

It must be stressed that the foot has not moved so far that the right leg cannot achieve the perpendicular line. Men must continually monitor this action by lifting the left foot from the floor, without any movement of weight.

Transfer weight to Left Foot in place. When performing step four, the left leg should have remained straight, weight is then transferred forward to that straight leg, which should not have moved.

Right Foot forward.

This bald statement of the Forward Walk tells us that the right foot will land and take weight onto that leg. When one considers that at the end of the fifth step, the weight is held in the left leg with hip displacement downwards and leftwards. Take into consideration that at the end of step six the weight will be downwards and rightwards. You cannot go ‘down’ from ‘down’. The feeling for step six will be ‘Up and Over’, with a feeling of coming up out of the left hip, and settling downwards into the right hip with an undulation of movement.

The man’s line at the end of the Hockey Stick will show the body parallel to Lady’s body with hip action to right, and left hand to right hand hold.

The Hockey Stick when danced in the Cha-Cha-Cha will have the same geometry and principles of movement, but after steps three and six there will be a further lock action to accommodate the five steps in the bar of music as opposed to three steps in the Rumba.

When dancing a locking action backwards the step preceeding the crossing step will be placed, with a slight ronde’ action, behind, and across the line of the supporting leg. So that the crossing foot retains its’ original direction line.

When dancing a forward locking action the step preceding the crossing action does not deviate its’ direction line.

When these principles of movement are observed the common Hockey Stick, like the Alemana, will become a thing of beauty and a joy forever, and not the series of distortions that one commonly sees.

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